‘Panjab University’s survival mantra: Keep politics out, encourage research’
Ranking designed to encourage privatisation
Ranking of educational institutions is perception management and a statistically futile exercise. Inconsistent, arbitrary in nature, these rankings compare apples with oranges. This fraudulent perception (or deception) management exercise is designed to put educational institutions in market-driven ‘competitive’ mode based on monetary incentives. Low ranking means less funding. Outcomes translated into quantitative numbers decide the rankings. But education, particularly social sciences, are not quantitative and yield instant results. It’s a simple thing our “academicians” don’t want us to understand. To put it bluntly, this ranking exercise is essentially designed to encourage privatisation and commercialisation of education under parasitic neoliberal policies. Better ranking would essentially mean how aggressively these “top” institutions initiated self finance courses by depriving marginalised sections.
Sandeep Kumar, Chandigarh
Less politics, more academics
Panjab University (PU) has a long history of quality education, good faculty, vast research, highly accomplished alumni in all walks of life, and an international appeal. But over the last few years, the university’s performance is slipping due to lack of funds. Neither the Centre nor Punjab are helping support it financially. The vice-chancellor (V-C) also has to be an educationist and not a man with political party affiliations. As a member of the PU Alumni Association, I feel the university deserves better. Apart from raising the bar of quality education , the campus environment needs to be improved with more focus and academics and less on politics. PU can only beat high ranking universities by improving its teaching, international outlook, and research output.
Colonel R D Singh ( retd), Ambala Cantt
Go digital first
PU should go digital first and ensure its important activities, seminars etc take place online. Facilities, including classrooms should be improved, and the canteens and cafes given a makeover. Academics and not politics should become the focus of the university. All decisions that are taken should have the consent of the students first to give them a say in university matters.
Saikrit Gulati, Chandigarh
Certain groups must stop ruling PU ‘by proxy’
PU, once the pride of undivided Punjab, enjoyed international fame. Eminent educationists were in charge of the august office of the V-C and the university attracted students from other countries too. The downward trend set in when some powerful groups in the senate and syndicate started ruling PU affairs by proxy. Dirty politics for decades has tarnished the image of the university. The financial crunch is impacting research and hiring of qualified, dynamic faculty. Politics and political interference must end The nominated members must be selected on merit, not on recommendation of vested interests. Quality education, discipline and promoting of the latent talents of students will restore people’s trust in the university.
Usha Verma, Chandigarh
Generate funds through innovative initiatives
Panjab University will only top the rankings globally and nationally if political interference stops in the appointment of V-C or professors. Secondly, the professors should send research scholars abroad on foreign assignments instead of going themselves as this does not benefit their students or the university. The university should often invite luminaries from all fields from abroad and India to interact with the students and awaken their minds. Instead of fighting the funds crunch the V-C must try to generate funds through innovative initiatives and ensuring that professors who reach retirement age leave the university. Maintenance of the campus and ensuring its cleanliness is also important. Talent should be identified and nurtured. In 1981 PU refused to give funding to its research student Dr Joginder Singh Sidhu, who then went on to the US to earn fame as a scientist, inventor and designer. The world’s smallest and lightest camera is only one of more than 40 innovative products he has developed for the consumer market. He was also instrumental in designing the Smithsonian Institution’s Sikh Gallery in Washington, DC. Such talent should have been accepted and not rejected by PU
Opinder Kaur Sekhon, Chandigarh
Don’t make it a nursery for political parties
Once I visited PU in the eighties and I was aghast to hear a senior teacher say our job is to teach and not to do research. Gold is costlier than other metals, what is rare is valuable. Review the system of rotation and time-bound promotions. Give the grades but not the rank. Then comes the Students’ Council. In our times there were no elections for a students’ union. Now PU has become the nursery for political parties. In such a scenario education is relegated to the background. Financial resources depend on grants from the states concerned and the Central government, made generally on political considerations. Political parties through students’ unions will not allow increase in fees. Total student strength, faculty-student ratio and number of research scholars would depend on the job opportunities available. These factors along with strength of students from other countries and states, women students, those from economically and socially challenged categories are subjective and manipulative and unnecessary factors of NIRF. Ranking of a university should be exclusively based on standard of teaching and research of international standard recognition. However, if the University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences can excel in the existing system then why can’t other departments achieve that standard?
Gurdev Singh, Mohali
Central recognition must
Standards of the university are declining due to financial constraints, without full financial support from the states. Not being recognised as a Central university is also affecting PU as it is not getting the financial support it needs to outperform others. That is also why PU is unable to add new infrastructure, allocate more funds for research projects, or depute university teaching staff to foreign universities. The student-teacher ratio is too high so researchers do not get the individual attention that they deserve from guides. Instead of being in the news for its academic achievements, the university is always in the limelight for disagreements between the V-C and the senate. Politics had gone deep into the roots of the university and the teachers and V-C are not on the same page on many issues, which affects the image and the reputation of the institute. Now a number of universities have been set up by corporate houses, with world class infrastructure and best of faculty from around the globe with a great deal of stress on research and performance. With its old ways of life and political interference PU will never be able to hold its own among the best universities in India or abroad. It will now require a total overhaul to outperform or come close to the best. But will the academicians win over the political appointees? That is a million dollar question.
Maintain International standards to improve ranking
Panjab University needs to improve the parameters on which ranking assessment is done. Quality of academics should be improved. Student- teacher ratio should be maintained. With more stress on research more patents should be filed. A number of initiatives have to be taken to attract more students to the university. More international students should be enrolled. Inbound and outbound exchange programmes should be offered. Campus placements should be made more attractive and feasible by inviting multinational and international companies with high packages. Student elections should be banned completely as these are just vehicles of propaganda for their parties.
Abhilasha Gupta, Mohali
Education should not be dumbed down
The education system is changing to make studies and scoring easier in examinations. The basic standards of education have to be improved to ensure that students and as a result universities improve their performance.
Priyam Aggarwal, Chandigarh.
Move with the times
Nothing can be achieved without discipline, so strict implementation of the academic curriculum will help faculty as well as students power up their performance. New courses geared to help students face the challenges of the modern world should be introduced. It is true that success demands perseverance. Children are the future of the nation and the authority should guide them on the right path. All laboratories should be modernised and research encouraged. Modern technology should be adopted for classroom teaching. Regular and thorough inspection should be done of university and college hostel rooms to ensure students are not distracted from studies in any way.
Sumesh Kumar Badhwar, Mohali
Improve distance learning facilities
The reason for PU’s poor performance is stagnation in introducing new courses or giving impetus to research and not revolutionising its distance learning facilities. The alumni association too needs to be galvanized and research given a boost. Undue political interference both at student as well as professorial level must end.
Upgrade research centres
Panjab University is an age-old esteemed institution and has produced eminent scholars since its inception. It has been witnessing a continuous downward trend in various rankings in the last few years. Though its research standards are praiseworthy it has failed to compete with other institutes in the region and nation which have top class infrastructure and valuable collaborations with foreign universities. Their financial strength is also the underlying reason behind their continuous rise and popularity because they charge a hefty tuition fees. PU’s strength lies in its experienced, seasoned and research-oriented faculty. Though it is a public university it has its own limitations and has been facing severe financial problems from the last many years. It now has the responsibility to provide quality and affordable education to students. Meanwhile, the actual reason for drastic drop in rankings can be attributed to the lesser points earned by university in research and citation which needs attention. PU departments, especially science and engineering wings, must come forward to collaborate with the city colleges and professional institutes affiliated with it. Many colleges have research centres on campuses. PU must help upgrade them to push for active participation in research. Colleges and respective university departments need to work in tandem with each other to find solutions to current problems with latest scientific techniques. Such co-ordination will help utilise the talent of students doing masters, graduate and doctorate courses in college departments.
Dr Karan Singh Vinayak, Chandigarh
Research infrastructure outdated
The politicisation of the V-C’s post and also those of the faculty are the primary reasons for the fall in PU’s rankings. The other major factors are negligible recruitments, shortage of faculty from across the country and insufficient funding, besides factionalism and political affiliations of seniors. PU has turned into a cradle of politics and, education has taken a backseat. Research, which was at some point of time was the university’s pride has lost its shine, due to outdated research infrastructure, resulting in knowledge transfer being low. The number of PhDs awarded has decreased drastically. The glory of the university can only be restored by ensuring a healthier educational atmosphere, bonhomie between the faculty and students, and removal of politically inclined persons from the payrolls and student rosters.
Rajiv Boolchand Jain, Zirakpur